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This box has all THIRTEEN operas (unlike the rest) + Librettos and Translations,
This review is from: Wagner Complete Operas (Audio CD)
Richard Wagner composed thirteen operas. All are in this box.
The first three - Die Feen, Das Liebesverbot, and Rienzi - have been forgotten by the public and most record companies.
This is especially surprising in the case of Rienzi.
It was Wagner's most popular opera during his lifetime.
Adolf Hitler may have inadvertently killed Rienzi when word got out that it was his favorite opera.
This seems unfair:
After the war, his valet reported that Hitler's favorite movie was "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs"
yet Snow White seems to have survived unscathed.
There are a number of boxes of Wagner's collected operas on the market.
Most are INCOMPLETE, containing only the final ten operas:
Wagner: The Operas : Georg Solti, TEN operas (Decca)
The Complete Operas : Daniel Barenboim, TEN operas (Teldec)
Wagner - The Complete Operas (Sacd - Plays on all CD players) : Marek Janowski, TEN operas (Pentatone)
Wagner: The Great Operas from the Bayreuth Festival (33 Disc Box Set) : four conductors, TEN operas (Decca)
Wagner: Great Opera Box : went one better and included ELEVEN operas, with eight conductors (EMI/Warner Classics)
The Deutsche Gramophon collection under review is the ONLY major-label box to include all THIRTEEN operas. *
Die Feen, Das Liebesverbot, Rienzi - There was a flurry of recording activity between 1976 and 1983:
- 1976: Edward Downes presented all three operas in stereo broadcasts on the BBC.
- 1983: Wolfgang Sawallisch presided over all three for the Bavarian Radio (more heavily cut than Downes): Wagner: Die Feen, Das Liebesverbot, Rienzi
- 1976: Rienzi only - EMI produced the first, and to date only studio recording of Rienzi, conducted by Heinrich Hollreiser: Wagner: Rienzi
If for no other reason than completeness, the Downes/BBC set of three operas is the most desirable.
Unfortunately, the BBC is still sitting on one of them.
All three were released in 2005 on the Italian label Ponto, in violation of BBC copyright. They have been withdrawn.
DG/Universal had no recordings of the first three operas in their catalog, so they licensed Die Feen and Das Liebesverbot from the BBC.
But instead of the Downes/BBC Rienzi, they went with the Hollreiser/EMI Rienzi (3 hours, 38 minutes versus 4 hours, 40 minutes for Downes/BBC).
Let's hope the BBC is planning an independent release of the Downes/BBC Rienzi, the most complete Rienzi to date. **
Good News: DG/Universal includes complete texts and English translations for all thirteen operas.
The booklet includes a link to the website where they can be downloaded (clumsy but unavoidable in a bargain box like this).
The best available performances of three rare operas, on nine CDs with complete librettos, for only 65 Pounds would be a bargain all by itself.
Think of the remaining ten operas as a bonus.
- Especially desirable is the Sinopoli Tannhauser with Placido Domingo:
This is the only recording of the complete Paris version of the opera (more music).
Solti's recording was advertised as the Paris version, but he reverted to the Dresden version in a few places.
P.S. I have prepared discographies of the three early Wagner operas:
Wagner: Liebesverbot [Michael Nagy, Charles Reid, Franz Meyer] [Oehms Classics: OC942]
* There are a few thirteen opera collections on inexpensive labels specializing in historical recordings (mono).
For the first three operas, they had to make do with very old radio broadcasts - heavily cut.
** The Ponto version of the Downes/BBC Rienzi is available as a download (6 euros) on
Unfortunately no libretto or translation included.